Sunday, August 19, 2012

Icecream Time

Summer has arrived at last and with it, the desire to eat ice cream!  The passion for ices is not a new one of course. By the beginning of the 19thc ice creams and water ices were an expected luxury at fashionable dinner parties. In the summer ladies would sit in their open carriages in Berkeley Square, in the shade of the great plane trees and eat ices while their male escorts lounged alongside.
The print above is of a French ice cream parlour with one young lady eating what looks like a strawberry ice while the others consult the menu board and flirt with the waiter.
These days we have fridges, freezers, ice cream makers and unlimited ice, but how did a 19thc cook manage to create ice-cold confections in the summer? Ice was cut from ponds and lakes in the winter and stored deep underground, packed in insulating straw in specially designed icehouses. Every stately home had one and in London establishments like Gunters would buy theirs from specialist wholesalers – some of whom cut their ice from the Regent’s Canal. By the 1840s ice was being shipped from the States and from Norway and special ice wells were dug to store it.
Once you had your ice (and had presumably removed the frozen pondweed and the occasional newt from it) it was crush and put into a pail. The pot containing the ingredients of the ice was put into this pail and then the ice was sprinkled with salt, lots of it, which lowers the temperature still further. I asked my scientist husband what the physics involved was and he said, “Complicated,” so I haven’t pursued it!

So here are some recipes for you to try. They all come from The Complete Confectioner of 1815, by the wonderfully-named Frederick Nutt. My copy of the books, as you can see from the title page, was originally owned by Mrs Davis of Moor Court and I don’t think she, or her cook, used it much because it is in pristine condition.
Please note – I haven’t tried any of these myself, so you are on your own if you attempt them!
The first ice cream recipe, for Barberry ice Cream, gives the method to be used for all the others (spelling and punctuation are Mr Nutt’s!):
Take a large wooden spoonful of barberry jam, and put it into a bason with one pint of cream; squeeze one lemon ion, mix it well; add a little cochineal to colour it; put it into the freezing pot and cover it; put the freezing pot into a pail and some ice all round the pot; throw a great deal of ice in the pail, turning the pot round for ten minutes; then open your pot, and scrape it from the sides, cover it up again, and keep turning it for some time, till your cream is like butter, and as thick; put it in your moulds, pit them into a pail, and cover it with ice and salt for three quarters of an hour, til you find the water is come to the top of the pail; do not be sparing of the salt, for if you do not use enough it will not freeze: dip your mould into water, and turn it out on your plate to send to table.
Among the familiar flavours are some less common – biscuit, brown bread, China orange, burnt filbert, burnt (I think we would call this caramel) and parmesan cheese.
The water ices  are very similar in method, although the ingredients are sieved very carefully before being frozen.

Louise Allen

Labels: , , , , ,


Blogger David ruffin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely fascinating, Louise - can't imagine what that pond water must have been like!

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Jo Beverley said...

Interesting blog, Louisa. Ice cream churns setup for this are common in Canadian museums. Perhaps British people had better access to commercial ico cream, whereas a pioneer population would be on their own.

The process definitely works, but for best results it's important to keep churning, or it sets hard and crystalline.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Louise Allen said...

Thanks, Risemary & Jo. Jo has pointed out a typo to me -
"..throw a great deal of ice in the pail" should be throw a great deal of ice* in...

11:00 AM  
Blogger Jane Lovering said...

Very interesting, having just visited Montacute House and seeing the ice-house, it's fascinating to find out just what they did with the ice! Got me wondering though, did no-one ever get ill from eating water frozen from such..err.. pondy sources? Apart from weed and newts, was the water ever contaminated?

11:21 AM  
Blogger Louise Allen said...

Jane - I assume the water that made the ice was kept separate from the actual ice cream, although there must have been splashes. Obviously tougher immune systems!

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

When I was a child, we used to make icecream with an icecream churn like these. No pond water though! We would take turns spinning the cream. It was a workout alright.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Mallory said...

Pond water sounds very dodgy, but perhaps it ws a very clean pond! Lovely post, Louise, thank you (and just wish it was hot enough for icecream here in the Pennines!)

12:45 PM  
Blogger Jane Lovering said...

Thanks, Louise. I was thinking there must have been leaks, but, obviously, if the ice is cold enough there wouldn't be. And, yes, I suppose immune systems would have been a lot more efficient!

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Mallory said...

Re immune systems, when the children were young we moved to our current house, which has a spring water supply. It was noticeable that they rarely suffered from the stomach bugs that beset their school friends.

5:14 PM  
Blogger LizB said...

Love the fact that all the recipes are made with real cream. Ice cream clearly meant what it said then. What we eat now is generally counterfeit, but probably less fattening?

Fascinating post.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Hawksley said...

We had an Elizabethan ice house in the house I grew up in. It was about seven square feet and on the north side of the house under a stone-floored larder with marble shelves and one tiny window.

You got to it via a flagstone with a ring in it. In January, snow was shoveled into it, stamped well down, followed by a layer of straw, another layer of well-stamped snow and so on until it reached the roof. The flagstone was then put back.

It lasted until August and was most effective in keeping the larder extremely cold. It was quite capable of keeping ice cream cold until needed.

When the ice had all drained away, the straw was cleared out and went onto the compost heap, and the ice house was cleaned to await more snow the following winter.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Louise, I pinned this to Pinterest!

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my ancestor was James Davies of Moor Court - small world now we have the web!!

10:58 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Follow us on Twitter @

Readers outside the UK might like to know about

The Book Depository

which offers free delivery worldwide

Our books are also available from all Amazons

- see links to our websites

and our UK and US Amazon pages below -

as well as most book shops

depending on country


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK       US




UK       US


UK       US


UK       US


UK      US

Cover art copyright the publishers